Scaling personal initiatives into collective action: The citizen powerhouse of Sager der Samler in Aarhus

How Danish medical students came together to help marginalized citizens access healthcare and change the system from within

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Case study abstract

Sager der Samler is a local powerhouse for citizen initiatives in the Danish city of Aarhus. It creates collective action and social innovation by supporting a new wave of activism emerging among local citizens who feel marginalized by current political issues, malfunctioning systems, and social injustice.

The role of the platform is to scale initiatives up from a personal impulse sparked by frustrations or aspirations into a viable initiative that can address and potentially address the issue on a systemic scale.

With the actions of the shared community practices – collaboration, co-creation, and co-production – the initiative described in this case attempts to “infiltrate the bureaucratic walls” of health care and public services by developing more inclusive awareness and understanding of citizens’ needs in future public servants.

Key recommendations

Lower thresholds for participation by cultivating a welcoming attitude and offering time and space for building trust and relationships.


Build practices around the idea that “we are all crew,” that is to say, we share leadership and the responsibility to work hard toward our common goal. If you enter a public service, you refer to people as “users”, like you have “users” in public libraries. At Sager der Samler, there are no users, we are all crew, contributing. Everyone can con-tribute, and it starts with contributing to a good atmosphere.

Support synergies in the interactions between participants rather than providing services for them from outside. A critical learning in sustaining this com-munity is to avoid engaging “service institutions” that perform functions the community can do for itself. Cleaning is done at a weekly cleaning party and lunch is organized as a daily joint meal where anyone can volunteer to cook or help out.

Finally, take responsibility for curating participation and encourage leadership. Have a conversation with new participants and make sure newcomers recognize what the place is about. If it turns out they are looking for something else, you can kindly direct them to other places. Just as often, if we take time to listen, we will find that their individual story will converge with the narrative and purpose of the commu-nity as a whole.

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“Scaling personal initiatives into collective action: The citizen powerhouse of Sager der Samler in Aarhus”

Inspiration, key principles, practical do’s and don’ts

In open acess thanks to the Porticus Foundation

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